I provide below an English translation of the now infamous speech of Philippine President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III delivered on the occasion of the First National Criminal Justice Summit held at Centennial Hall, Manila Hotel.
The speech was dominated by a personal tirade against Philippine Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona who sat just a couple of metres from the podium where the President delivered it. The following are what I believe to be the key features of the content of the speech:
(1) It harks back to the regime of former President Ferdinand Marcos who, under Martial Law, committed atrocities against his father, national hero Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr; then,
(2) Uses this context to “remind” all that evil is just around the corner and that we should all be vigilant and stand ready to “fight” against the forces of oppression and tyranny.
(3) It highlights Noynoy’s duty to “protect” the Constitution and “serve” the “people”.
(4) Emphasises repeatedly that political power ultimately resides in and originates from “the people”.
(5) It enumerates various instances that the Supreme Court supposedly thwarts attempts of his administration to take steps towards rectifying the wrongdoings of the previous administration of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo; and,
(6) Cites perceived instances where the Supreme Court behaved in a way inconsistent with the very Laws it is supposedly tasked to interpret and implement; which he then uses to segue into,
(7) One instance when he, as then chairman of the Senate Committee on Local Government, had to grapple with what he implies is a bizarre lack of bases for defining what constitutes a Congress district; after which he takes the opportunity to wish his successor as chairman of that committee, Sen Fedindand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr, good luck in leading future efforts to resolve that “problem”.
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So without much further ado…
[The following is my translation into English of Philippine President Benigno S. Aquino IIIâ€™s speech during the First National Criminal Justice Summit held at Centennial Hall, Manila Hotel on Monday 5th December 2011]
[After formal greetings…]
Our gathering today presents an opportunity for us to better evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of our current criminal justice system and to propose new and just initiatives to address these. We can attest to the timeliness of such initiatives because through day-to-day headline news on print and television, the public can witness the work of our court clerks, attorneys, and justices. The value of your work [addressing said clerks, attorneys, and justices] cannot be doubted, as the decisions and the steps that you implement have relevant implications on our democracy.
As such, it is important that we examine what is written on Article 2, Section 1 of our Constitution: that power resides in and originates from the people. I thought it would be good to remind you of this as there are instances our history where we have forgotten this.
During the time of military rule [referring to the Martial Law in effect during the latter days of the regime of former PresFerdinand Marcos], justice did not serve the welfare of the general public. Instead, it was geared to serve the interests of a single person only — former President Ferdinand Marcos. My own family was a victim: My father was tried before a Court Martial but, in reality, the verdict had already been pre-determined. Before a court of magistrates, attorneys, judges, and witnesses appointed and provided by the very person who laid the charges — Marcos himself — the Dictator did all he could to bend justice and violate every human right of my father. Though he was innocent, [my father] was made to suffer for seven years and seven months while those in power feasted on the national treasury. They deprived us of justice and tipped the scales of justice over to their favour.
Now as your president, I have sworn to protect and uphold the Constitution, implement and abide by its laws, be just to every person, and apply my very person to the service of the country. And key to my mandate is to ensure that the darkness of Martial Law will never happen again and that those who perpetrated the crimes of the past be made accountable.
That is why from the very start [of my administration in 2010], we had taken steps to clarify the allegations of corruption during the previous administration [of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo]: from the “fertilizer scam” which rather than fattened crops, instead, [allegedly] fattened the pockets of a number of officials; up to the “ZTE deal” [which, in the course of inquiries around it] resulted in the [alleged] kidnap of [supposed] witness Jun Lozada; including too allegations of cheating during the 2004 and 2007 elections; as well as many other wrongdoings we wish to expose.
We started with the forming of the Truth Commission which was going to take stock of and investigate any wrongdoings that transpired during the previous administration and call on the perpetrators to account for these. The envisioned Truth Commission would have had no other agenda other than to make right all the wrongs as soon as possible. Unfortunately we all know what happened: the initiative was ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. What was just a first step was immediately quashed.
It is the duty of the [Commission on Elections (COMELEC)] to ensure that [Philippine] elections yield clean and credible results. So it is only natural that the COMELEC would seek the assistance of the [Department of Justice (DOJ)] in the investigation of allegations of cheating in 2007. It is normal to form such panels, yet this is now being questioned by the Supreme Court. They are also questioning the legality of the warrant of arrest issued by the Pasay Regional Trial Court against Mrs. Arroyo.
Notice too: When the Supreme Court issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) [lifting a travel-ban implemented by the DOJ against Arroyo], these included some conditions. Yet, in quick time, [the SC itself] admitted that these conditions need not have been met to begin with. [Mild expression of exasperation], they stipulated all these conditions that they had no intention of observing! We [presumably the DOJ] followed all of what due process dictates, yet we are now being accused of being belligerent. Who in their right mind would not doubt the true agendas [of the Supreme Court]?
This is not the first time that the Supreme Court implemented decisions that are difficult to understand. According to Article 7, Section 15 of our Constitution [NB: the following excerpt lifted verbatim here]…
Two months immediately before the next presidential elections and up to the end of his term, a President or Acting President shall not make appointments, except temporary appointments to executive positions when continued vacancies therein will prejudice public service or endanger public safety.
…yet we all know that Mrs. Arroyo [despite the above] forced the issue of appointing the SC Chief Justice. She did so not two months before the election but one week after the election. On the basis of the Law, the Supreme Court can only do so if the position is deemed a temporary position. They violated all this when they endorsed Arroyo’s appointment of Corona as Chief Justice — a position not within the jurisdiction of the executive branch but of the judiciary. The question is therefore this: Did the Supreme Court violate the Constitution?
Another example of [a Supreme Court] decision that is difficult to understand is the one about the forming of Congressional districts. According to Article 6, Section 5 of the Constitution, each district should have a minimum population of 250,000. The problem is that there are some Congressional districts that do not meet this requirement, such as one district in [the province of] Camarines Sur which has a population of just a bit more than 176,000. This is why when I was still a Senator and chairman of the Committee on Local Government, we questioned the forming of this district. Unfortunately, this was trashed by the Supreme Court. The question is: If population can no longer serve as the basis for forming a district, what would be the bases upon which legislators will implement future redistricting? What I mean to say is that there are bases for forming cities, but when it comes to forming provinces of districts, there are none? I can only empathise with the new chairman of the Senate Committee on Local Government, Sen Bongbong Marcos: Good luck, sir, in your efforts to resolve this problem.
We do respect the co-equal powers of the judicial and executive branches of government. We have no intentions of eoncroaching upon the rights of the judiciary or disrespecting anyone’s credibility. But we do have to re-visit the basic principles of democracy. We who swore to the duty [of upholding said principles] only have you — our “boss” — the Filipino people to answer to. We are here to serve the country and be role models to all Filipinos.
Now if we find a public servant who fails to deliver on this promise to the people who are, ultimately, the source of his authority and, instead, serves a patron who had been instrumental in putting him in the position where he currently sits, will we be able to continue to rely on him to look after the interests of the Filipino?
I am not a lawyer. But just the same, I grew up with a clear view of what is right and what is wrong; and what is and isn’t in the interests of people. I hold that justice is not a steering wheel that can simply be turned one way or another according to its driver’s will. Justice is not a toy that lawyers and courts can play with, to be turned over and spun according to their whims.
Let’s come back to what I mentioned earlier: the powers of the Supreme Court, the President, and Congress ultimately originate from one “Boss” — the people. As such, it is only the interests of the people that we should be on the side of and should defend. I swore to protect and defend the Constitution, abide by its laws, be just to every person, and apply my very person to the service of the country. I have no intention of reneging on my sworn duty. I have no intention of failing the people.
It is not only mine but everyone’s obligation to stay the course under a unified aspiration: to serve and protect the interests of the general public. To all of us who stand shoulder-to-shoulder as we walk down the straight path, we must persevere. As long as we are on the side of righteousness we will not retreat from any fight. As long as the people are behind us, we will succeed. Let us not fail the people.
Thank you very much.
[End of English translation]
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This is the full Tagalog text of President Benigno S. Aquino IIIâ€™s speech during the 1st National Criminal JusticeSummit held at Centennial Hall, Manila Hotel (Courtesy Blogwatch.tv).
Ang pagtitipon natin ngayong umaga ay isang pagkakataon para higit na masuri ang lakas at kahinaan ng ating kasalukuyang criminal justice system, at makalikom ng mga makabago at napapanahong inisyatibang pangkatarungan. Masasabi nating napapanahon ito: dahil sa mga araw-araw na headline sa diyaryo at telebisyon, nasasaksihan din ngayon ng buong bansa kung gaano kasalimuot ang trabaho ng mga clerk of court, abugado, at huwes. Walang duda sa halaga ng inyong trabaho: ang inyong mga desisyon at hakbang ay may makabuluhang implikasyon sa ating demokrasya. Dahil dito, mahalagang balikan natin ang nakasaad sa Artikulo 2, Seksyon 1 ng ating Saligang batas: ang ganap na kapangyarihan ay nasa sambayanan, at ang lahat ng kapangyarihang pampamahalaan ay nagmumula sa kanila. Minabuti ko pong ipaalala ito sa inyo dahil minsan sa ating kasaysayan, tila nakalimutan natin ito. Noong panahon ng batas militar, hindi nakatuon ang katarungan para sa kapakanan ng taumbayan, kundi upang sundin ang mga kagustuhan ng iisang tao lang, ang dating pangulong Ferdinand Marcos. Mismong pamilya ko po ay biktima nito: Iniharap sa court martial ang aking ama, subalit bago pa man magsimula ang paglilitis, malaon nang naitakda ang kahihinatnan niya. Sa isang hukumang binubuo ng mga mahistrado, abugado, tagalitis at mga saksing itinalaga ng mismong nagsampa ng kasoâ€” si Ginoong Marcosâ€” ginawa ng diktadurya ang lahat ng kanilang makakaya upang baluktutin ang katarungan at ubusin ang karapatang pantao ng aking ama. Kahit wala siyang kasalanan, pitong taon at pitong buwan po siyang ipiniit at pinagdusa, habang pinagpiyestahan ng mga nasa kapangyarihan ang kaban ng bayan. Tinanggalan nila ng piring ang katarungan, at naibaling nila ang timbangan ng hustisya ayon sa kanilang kagustuhan.
Ngayon, bilang inyong Pangulo, may sinumpaan akong tungkulin: ang pangangalagaan at ipagtatanggol ang konstitusyon, ipatupad ang mga batas nito, maging makatarungan sa bawat tao, at italaga ang aking sarili sa paglilingkod sa Bansa. At bahagi ng aking mandato ang tiyaking hindi na maulit ang mga kadilimang nangyari noong panahon ng Martial law, at kung may gumawa man nito, ang siguruhing managot sila sa kanilang kasalanan.
Kaya naman simulaâ€™t sapul pa lamang, naglatag na tayo ng mga hakbang upang bigyang linaw ang mga alegasyon ng korupsyon noong nakaraang administrasyon: mula sa fertilizer scam, na nagpataba umano, hindi sa mga pananim, kundi sa mga bulsa ng ilang opisyal; hanggang sa ZTE deal, na humantong din sa pagkaka-kidnap di-umano sa saksing si Jun Lozada; mula sa alegasyon ng pandaraya ng 2004 at 2007 election, at marami pang ibang katiwalian na nais nating maungkat.
Sinimulan natin ito sa pagbuo ng Truth Commission, na dapat ay susuyod sa mga di-umanoâ€™y katiwaliang lumaganap noong nakaraang administrasyon, at panagutin ang mga nasa likod nito. Wala itong ibang layon kundi iwasto ang mali sa lalong madaling panahon. Subalit alam naman natin ang nangyari: labag daw ito sa konstitusyon ayon sa Korte Suprema. Unang hakbang pa lang natin, may barikada na agad.
Tungkulin ng COMELEC na tiyaking malinis at kapani-paniwala ang resulta ng eleksiyon. Kaya naman natural lang na humingi sila ng tulong sa DOJ para imbestigahan ang mga alegasyon ng pandaraya noong 2007. Pangkaraniwan na ang pagbuo ng ganitong mga panel, ngunit kinukuwestiyon ito ngayon sa Korte Suprema. Kinukwestiyon din nila ang legalidad ng warrant of arrest na ipinataw ng Pasay Regional Trial Court kay Ginang Arroyo.
Pansinin po ninyo: Nang naglabas ng TRO ang Korte Suprema, may kaakibat itong mga kondisyon. Subalit hindi nagtagal, sila mismo ang umaming hindi naman pala kailangang tuparin ang mga alituntuning ito. Aba, e naglagay ka pa ng patakaran kung wala ka naman palang balak na masunod ito. Lahat na ng proseso ay sinusunod natin, ngunit sa kabila nito, tayo pa daw ngayon ang naghahanap ng away. Sino ba naman ang hindi magdududa sa tunay nilang hangarin?
Hindi ito ang unang beses na gumawa ang Korte Suprema ng mga desisyong napakahirap unawain. Ayon sa article 7, section 15 ng ating saligang batas, â€œAng isang Pangulo ay hindi dapat gumawa ng mga paghirang sa loob ng dalawang buwan bago sumapit ang susunod na halalang pampanguluhan at hanggang sa matapos ang kanyang taning ng panunungkulan, maliban na lamang sa mga pansamantalang paghirang sa mga katungkulang ehekutibo.â€ Ngunit alam naman po nating pinilit ni Ginang Arroyo na magtalaga pa rin ng Chief Justice. Hinirang siya, hindi dalawang buwan bago ang halalan, kundi isang linggo matapos ang eleksiyon. Base sa batas at sa dati nilang pasya, sumangayon ang Korte Suprema na bawal magtalaga ng pwesto dalawang buwan bago sumapit ang susunod na eleksyon, maliban na lamang kung ito ay pansamantalang posisyon sa ehekutibo. Ngunit bumaliktad sila nang italaga ni Ginang Arroyo si Renato Corona bilang Chief Justice: isang pwestong hindi saklaw ng ehekutibo, kundi sa hudikatura. Ang tanong ngayon: lumabag ba ang Korte Suprema sa Saligang Batas?
Isang halimbawa pa po ng desisyon nilang mahirap unawain ay tungkol sa paggawa ng mga distrito sa Kongreso: Sa Article 6, Section 5 ng Saligang Batas, kinakailangang mas higit sa dalawandaan at limampung libo ang populasyon ng bawat distrito. Ang problema: may mga hindi nakakaabot sa bilang na ito, tulad na lamang ng isang distrito sa Camarines Sur na may mahigit isandaan pitumpuâ€™t anim na libo lamang ang populasyon. Kaya noong nasa Senado pa tayo, bilang chairman ng Committee on Local Government, kinwestyon natin ang pagbuo ng distritong ito, subalit ibinasura lamang ito ng Korte Suprema. Ang tanong ngayon: kung hindi na nakasalalay sa populasyon ang paglikha ng distrito, ano ang magiging basehan ng mga mambabatas kapag may panukalang redistricting? Ibig bang sabihin, may nakalatag tayong batayan kapag lungsod ang binubuo, pero kapag lalawigan o distrito, wala na? Nakikiramay ako sa bagong Chairman ng Senate committee on Local Government na si Senador Bongbong Marcos: Goodluck po sa pagresolba ng problemang ito.
Iginagalang po natin ang pagkakapantay sa kapangyarihan ng hudikatura at ng ehekutibong sangay ng gobyerno. Wala po tayong balak na tapakan ang karapatan nila, o bastusin ang kredibilidad ng sinuman. Pero kailangan nating balikan ang mga batayang prinsipyo ng ating demokrasya. Kami pong mga nanumpa sa tungkulin ay iisa lamang ang pinagkakautangan ng loob: kayong mga Boss namin, ang sambayanang Pilipino. Narito kami para maglingkod sa ating bansa; at para may manilbihan nang buong katapatan at sigasig sa mga Pilipino.
Ngayon, kung may isang lingkod-bayan na tumatanaw ng utang ng loob, hindi sa taumbayan na siyang dapat na bukal ng aming kapangyarihan, kundi sa isang padron na isiniksik siya sa puwesto, maaasahan po kaya natin siyang intindihin ang interes ng Pilipino?
Hindi po ako nagtapos ng abugasya. Gayumpaman, lumaki tayong may malinaw na pananaw kung alin ang tama, at kung alin ang mali; kung alin ang makatao, at kung alin ang tiwali. Naninindigan pa rin akong ang katarungan ay hindi manibelang basta-basta naililiko sa kung saan nais sumadsad ng mga mahistrado. Hindi ito laruan ng mga abugadoâ€™t hukom na binabaliktad at pinapasirko ayon sa kanilang kagustuhan.
Balikan po natin ang nabanggit ko kanina: ang kapangyarihan ng Korte Suprema, ng Pangulo, at ng Kongreso ay nagmumula sa nag-iisa nilang Boss: ang taumbayan. Samakatuwid, ang interes lamang ng taumbayan ang dapat naming panigan at ipaglaban. Nanumpa akong pangangalagaan at ipagtatanggol ang konstitusyon, ipatupad ang mga batas nito, maging makatarungan sa bawat tao, at italaga ang aking sarili sa paglilingkod sa bansa. Wala akong balak na lumabag sa aking sinumpaang tungkulin; wala akong balak na biguin ang taumbayan.
Obligasyon ko, at obligasyon nating lahat na manatiling tumahak sa iisang direksyon, sa ilalim ng nagkakaisa nating adhika: ang paglingkuran at pangalagaan ang interes ng sambayanan. Sa lahat ng nakikibalikat sa atin sa tuwid na daan, manalig kayo: Hanggaâ€™t nasa tama tayo, wala tayong laban na aatrasan. Hanggang nasa likod natin ang taumbayan, magtatagumpay tayo. Huwag natin silang bibiguin.
Maraming salamat po.
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